Owen Walsh

Owen Walsh


I have been at the University of Leeds since 2012. In 2015, I graduated with a BA in English and History having completed a research project which focused on Claude McKay. I completed an MA in Race and Resistance in 2016. My MA research looked at how and to what extent racial binaries were challenged in the work of Claude McKay and William Attaway. I began my PhD at Leeds in October 2016, and anticipate completing it in 2020.



(forthcoming) '"Betwixt and Between": The Black Internationalist Practice of Juanita Harrison', Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International


'When Black Cinema Went Soviet', History Workshop, 29/5/2019, http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/when-black-cinema-went-soviet/

'Mexican Migration in the Fiction of William Attaway', US Studies Online, 22/4/2019, https://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/mexican-migration-in-the-fiction-of-william-attaway/


I am an editor for the UK Annual of Postgraduate Hip-Hop Studies, https://ukjhhs.wordpress.com/.

Conference papers

‘Langston Hughes and Juanita Harrison in Imperial Japan: Protest and Performance in the Black Pacific’, SHAFR Annual Meeting, New Orleans, June 2020

(invited talk) ‘Beyond the Black Atlantic: Re-mapping Black Internationalism during the 1930s’, Sheffield Modern International History Group, University of Sheffield, December 2019

‘Japanese State Surveillance and the Making of Black Radicalism in the 1930s’, HOTCUS PGR Conference, Rothermere Institute of the Americas, Unviersity of Oxford, October 2019 

(panel organiser) 'Juanita Harrison on Veiling and Communism: A Proletarian Black Woman Intervenes in Global Controversies', African-American Intellectual History Society conference, University of Michigan, March 2019

'American Imperialism in the Novels of William Attaway', BAAS PGR conference, Northumbria University, November 2018

'Racial Disidentification in the Travel Diary of Juanita Harrison', Society for the History of Women in the Americas Annual Conference, London School of Economics, June 2018

'The "English Inning" of Claude McKay, Transnational Writer and Socialist', What's Happening in Black British History VIII, University of Huddersfield, May 2018

'The Communist Politics and Primitivist Sensibilities of Claude McKay', The Red and the Black: The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic, University of Central Lancashire, October 2017


2019 HOTCUS Doctoral Travel Award

2018 BAAS Postgraduate Travel Award

2017, 2018, 2019 PGR Extraordinary Fund travel grant

2016 School of History and IMS PhD Scholarship

2016 Marion Sharples Prize for the best dissertation by a taught MA student in the School of History

Memberships and affiliations

British Association of American Studies (BAAS)

Historians of the Twentieth-Century United States (HoTCUS)

African-American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

Royal Historical Society (RHS)


I have experience teaching on a range of modules including a survey module on The Modern World, a Level 2 module on Black Politics, and two skills-based modules at Level 1 for which I also designed 11 weeks of content.

Research interests

How does our view of Black internationalism change if we centre the West Coast of the American continent?

This is the principal question to which my research responds. In doing so, I situate the West in a transnational geography of race, bridging Paul Gilroy's conceptualisation of the Black Atlantic with new perspectives on Westernness, frontiers, and the Black Pacific. The importance of the West Coast as a migratory route linking the US South, Mexico, and the Pacific Rim undergirds my understanding of it as a site of internationalist practice which troubles the division between global internationalism and localised, domestic interracialism. I contend that the Atlanticist frame common to histories of Black internationalism is not adequate given the complex ideological negotiations undertaken by African Americans on the Pacific Coast, and in their travel narratives of the USSR, Asian frontiers, and the Black Pacific.

My research focuses on the 1930s as a decade in which international relations were in flux, and the meanings of Black internationalism and the American West were being widely contested. The salience of communist models of internationalism (and the wider tradition of Black radicalism) features heavily in my research. These are figured through cosmopolitan practitioners both renowned and obscure. In the former category, the project offers new perspectives on Langston Hughes during his “red” decade and beyond it; in the latter group, I foreground such individuals as maid-turned-travel writer Juanita Harrison, journalist and lawyer Loren Miller, and sculptor Sargent Johnson.


  • MA Race and Resistance (Distinction), 2016
  • BA English and History (First-class honours), 2015